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The Ninth Floor
January 26, 2014 8:11 PM   Subscribe

The Ninth Floor. [NSFW] The Ninth Floor documents a group of addicts who moved into the apartment of a former millionaire in a wealthy neighborhood in downtown Manhattan. Shocking, haunting photographs by Jessica Dimmock.

Joe Smith, in his mid 60s, allowed a young addict to move into a spare bedroom in his large three-bedroom apartment in hopes of gaining rent. Several years later, a fully addicted Joe no longer had a bedroom and as many as 12 to 15 young addicts stayed at any given time. All electricity and hot water had been turned off and anything valuable had long been sold to feed habits.

(There are descriptions beneath each photo in light gray text, easy to miss but certainly worth reading.)
posted by capnsue (41 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by JoeBlubaugh at 8:25 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Super heavy stuff. Thanks.
posted by intermod at 8:32 PM on January 26


I'd seen some of these photos before, I think, this isn't new, right? Still, very, very good stuff, and incredibly depressing.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:35 PM on January 26


Chilling. I wish I knew more about the project and the subjects.
posted by lunasol at 8:37 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


                 wow
posted by parki at 8:43 PM on January 26


Here's a related video, an article from New York Magazine.

Pretty disturbing....
posted by HuronBob at 8:44 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Jesus.
posted by darkstar at 8:45 PM on January 26


These look kind of posed. I'm not sure what kind of relationship the subjects have with the photographer, or what sort of choices she might have made in terms of composition and effects, but it seems very stagey.


I'm getting a very "trying to update Tulsa" vibe from it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:46 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I also want to know more about her relationship to the subjects, TWS -- the photographer has clearly been in these people's lives for some time, and has access to some pretty intimate moments.
posted by jpziller at 9:01 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Jessica Dimmock and the Ninth Floor, interview with Photoshelter, 2008.
I Understood How Afraid Of The World They Were, interview with Columbia Visuals, 2013
The Ninth Floor, Inge Morath Award Winner, 2006.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:04 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


It's a double, though both the links from the original post are dead now.
posted by nanojath at 9:07 PM on January 26


fucking vomit. when i was 21 years old, i paid my own way through rehab (not for heroin). you will never meet a more miserable person than an ex-junkie.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:08 PM on January 26


This feels really exploitive for some reason.
posted by wuwei at 9:11 PM on January 26 [11 favorites]


I would be really fucking uncomfortable taking some of these pictures -- specifically, the ones that show people having sex -- of people who were so incredibly vulnerable in comparison to me.

Not that people who are addicted to heroin are necessarily incapable of giving consent. And given that it was a 3-year project and she started publishing 8 months in (or at least that's what it sounds like from the man of twists and turns' interview?), I imagine the people in the later photos probably knew they would be published. But still. This is something I definitely would not have done and I'm still thinking about whether that says anything except the fact that I'm not a documentary photographer.
posted by ostro at 9:11 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


(NSFW)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:15 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


Whoa, stay off drugs kids.
posted by codswallop at 10:04 PM on January 26


Welp, there's the groin-kick to the optimism I'd begun to cobble together for Monday morning.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:11 PM on January 26 [6 favorites]


I belong to a community of recovering addicts. Nothing terrifies me anymore. The people in my group have demonstrated so much strength, so much resilience, that I cannot help but reach up to their standard. Fellow addicts: it's not hopeless. Hold on. There is a better world out there, if only you can reach it.
posted by SPrintF at 10:22 PM on January 26 [11 favorites]


The kid in that, she'd be, what, seven now?
I hope here life is considerably better than Jessica's childhood appears to have been given her story.

I wonder how many of these people are still with us, and what the apparently is like now.
So many unanswered qeuestions.
posted by Mezentian at 10:36 PM on January 26


Trying my hardest to not sound like an obstinate contrarian asshole here, but can the people who think this is exploitive or otherwise messed up please elaborate on that? I mean, you're not obligated too or anything, i'm just curious.

Because this definitely doesn't strike me as like, favela tours and photography kind of exploitive. I'm just not seeing how this is all that much different from internet famous party photographers of a few years ago photographing blacked out people embarrassing themselves and 16 year olds railing coke in NYC and LA back in the mid 2000s.

I mean if you're uncomfortable with that too, i get it. But i just don't think this is automatically bad just because it's upsetting and uncomfortable to look at. My first, reactive, defensive thought was ye olde "just because it's jarring/upsetting/makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean that there's anything actually wrong with it nor that the people in the photos aren't cool with it".

Because yea, a lot of these definitely look pretty posed. And that kinda orients this in my mind as being a bit of shock art just a level or two above vice and blog photography kind of stuff. This definitely isn't like, peeping tom stuff or "walk in while they're too fucked up to care and shoot". I mean, i can't know that on the second one, but it just looks way too staged/posed for that.

If i'm coming off as a gigantic penis let me know and i'll shut up, because i'm not an expert on addiction besides having some experience with alcoholism in multiple ways. But... yea.
posted by emptythought at 11:13 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I'm not really sure what new insights these photographs brought to the subject. We don't know why these guys have decided to flush their lives down the toilet. There's not much explanation of what is keeping them on the street.

I would also like to learn more about the guy whose condominium (and life) they trashed.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:49 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Heroin is a bad scene. I have known real junkies, and there is no person who will destroy your trust faster.

Addiction, or at least the addictions I have seen in first and second person (including heroin, nicotine, meth, cocaine, power, adrenaline, sex and money) are a disease and a choice.

There is a certain bloody mindedness that it takes to really get very far into these addictions. Most of them make you barf (heroin), irritable (meth) or an asshole (all of 'em). ALL of them make you feel poisoned. Your body will tell you when you have done something this bad.

Most real addicts are trying to get away from something worse, at least initially. The way to prevent this pain for people in the future is complicated and difficult. Mostly it centers around preventing horror and sorrow.
posted by poe at 12:02 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


I would also like to learn more about the guy whose condominium (and life) they trashed.

Yeah, me too. There's a bit more about him in the NYMag article.
Old Joe had held the lease since 1973 but slept on the couch after his housemates took his bedroom. Everyone thought he came from money, and when times were good he grew zucchini and tomatoes on the roof and was happily surrounded by young gay men. Things went south for him four years ago, when one of them—his boyfriend—jumped out of the apartment window. Soon Joe was doing as much heroin as others would give him and letting just about anyone stay for free if they’d help him shoot up, since he couldn’t do it himself anymore.

In June, a year after Joe stopped paying his $1,200-a-month rent, the owners kicked everyone out. Old Joe wound up in a hospital somewhere
posted by mannequito at 12:11 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Because yea, a lot of these definitely look pretty posed.

Aye, especially the having sex ones (but, junkies, you know?).
But after reading that she spent years getting to know them, and days hanging around with them, I assume they are the cream of the crop.

That Nymag link is .... ugh.
Is there a date on that? It seems to be from 2005.

Would the Murder Junkies band be GG Allin's old act?
posted by Mezentian at 12:35 AM on January 27


Is there a date on that? It seems to be from 2005.

Not that I saw. The earliest comment on it is from 2009.
posted by mannequito at 12:44 AM on January 27


As impressed as I was, I kept picturing the photographer in those filthy rooms, snapping away while people had their horrible fights and their sad sex.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:16 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


As impressed as I was, I kept picturing the photographer in those filthy rooms, snapping away while people had their horrible fights and their sad sex.

And being very, very careful to not step on a needle.

I liked the photographs, awful though many of the scenes are. She clearly has a good eye and deserves the awards. I think it takes a particular kind of person to be able to do documentary photography like this, or ethnography in the same settings -- to be fully there, completely observant, form a genuine human connection with people, and yet remain detached enough to still take the photos or make the observations. I don't think I could do it, but I respect the people who can.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:19 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Sucks to be the neighbors.
posted by jpe at 4:24 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Nan Goldin covered similar territory back in the eighties, although these photos feel more voyeuristic than hers did - Goldin was a participant as well as an observer in proceedings. And screwed up though many of Goldin's subjects were they were positioned as people, friends first and whatever else they were second.

I don't really want to see these junkies shag or shoot up. Not because I'm squeamish or prudish. Perhaps it's the editing down to a few shots. Dimmock's lens lacks empathy and I bristle slightly at the description of the photos as a project.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:30 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


And screwed up though many of Goldin's subjects were they were positioned as people, friends first and whatever else they were second.

In as far as I was ever unfortunate enough to be around junkies (more casual than these folks appear to be) these images seem pretty accurate to me. To me they capture that feeling when you popped 'round the road with a mate so they could score, and you were stuck in the lounge while they snuck off to another room to shoot up.

Dimmock's lens lacks empathy

I can't agree, but I don't know who Nan Goldin is. A quick search seemed to turn up images that seem hyper-real and appears to be even more staged than these. Got any good examples?
posted by Mezentian at 5:39 AM on January 27


I don't doubt they are accurate. My beef is that they feel exploitative.

Many, but certainly all, of Goldin's photos were posed, rather than staged. An example, perhaps are the countless photos she took of her friend Cookie Mueller.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:01 AM on January 27


Trying my hardest to not sound like an obstinate contrarian asshole here, but can the people who think this is exploitive or otherwise messed up please elaborate on that? I mean, you're not obligated too or anything, i'm just curious.
Because this definitely doesn't strike me as like, favela tours and photography kind of exploitive. I'm just not seeing how this is all that much different from internet famous party photographers of a few years ago photographing blacked out people embarrassing themselves and 16 year olds railing coke in NYC and LA back in the mid 2000s.

I mean if you're uncomfortable with that too, i get it. But i just don't think this is automatically bad just because it's upsetting and uncomfortable to look at. My first, reactive, defensive thought was ye olde "just because it's jarring/upsetting/makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean that there's anything actually wrong with it nor that the people in the photos aren't cool with it".

Because yea, a lot of these definitely look pretty posed. And that kinda orients this in my mind as being a bit of shock art just a level or two above vice and blog photography kind of stuff. This definitely isn't like, peeping tom stuff or "walk in while they're too fucked up to care and shoot". I mean, i can't know that on the second one, but it just looks way too staged/posed for that.

If i'm coming off as a gigantic penis let me know and i'll shut up, because i'm not an expert on addiction besides having some experience with alcoholism in multiple ways. But... yea.

Well, I'm not too crazy about that kind of party photography either. But the difference is in the power she has over her photos' subjects above and beyond the fact that she's photographing them. She's a reasonably comfortable-sounding art student and the people she photographs are destitute and, in some cases, homeless. Her subjects are people who regularly do something very illegal that they could be arrested for, and she doesn't do that illegal thing (which is one of the big differences between this and things like Tulsa), and she has photographic evidence of them doing that illegal thing. And I'd say that taking pictures of people having sex should be one of those Caesar's-wife kinds of things -- not only should there be consent, the quality of the consent should be beyond suspicion. Which is kind of difficult when you have this much power over your photo's subjects.
posted by ostro at 6:52 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Dionn comforts his daughter, Matilda, in the hospital where she has stayed for the first five weeks of her life.

Something needs to be done about this. Something.
posted by Melismata at 8:20 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


The apartment reminds me of that derelict ship full of rats that survive by eating one another. Not a great place to hang out.
posted by stbalbach at 8:29 AM on January 27


taking pictures of people having sex should be one of those Caesar's-wife kinds of things -- not only should there be consent, the quality of the consent should be beyond suspicion.

Very well-put, ostro. The thing that got me was that, right up until the parking lot blow job, I was pretty absorbed in the photos and the people in them, but that one took me right out of it--wondering about the photographer sitting in the driver's seat, how the act being photographed happened to take place right there (and during the day and in the open), etc. That's not a good thing. And it's not shock that that could happen--being involved in recovery from two or three different angles, I've seen and heard of stuff way more shocking.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:41 AM on January 27


This left me wondering about the context of this series. Is it an art project? A documentary? What? Not to sound jaded or anything, but what do we actually learn from this series? There's not a single new insight, or new view, or new way of looking at addiction, hard drugs, the consequences and the lifestyle that goes with it. Is there anything we haven't seen before? Haven't we seen such photos, oh, only a billion times before? Are these somehow more visceral, or more true, or more touching, or more something?

And what of them on just a purely aesthetic plane, as photography? They're not strictly observation, or stolen moments, nor are they very carefully posed, but the staging is rather clumsy and subpar, to be honest.

Perhaps some feel there is an exploitative aspect to this, because of the lack of insight or something new being shown rather than getting its charge entirely from the tragedy already inherent in the condition, and this lens and photographer adds nothing, and so it comes across as a rather uninspired 'look at the junkies'.
posted by VikingSword at 11:39 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that reminded me a lot of Nan Goldin, but it also reminded me of a project that I worked on turning into a book called Glass House by Margaret Morton. Similar story, though the kids squatting there were not supposed to have drugs in the house according to their self-imposed rules. And it differed in that it was kind of working at helping these kids until gentrification hit the Lower East Side and they were evicted and found themselves back on the street. The book follows up on what happened to them after they were evicted and it was pretty bleak. Morton first came to prominence because of her 1995 photos of the people who lived in New York's tunnel systems.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:53 AM on January 27


Would be so much more worthwhile if she let the subjects take the photos on their own. I guess she didn't want to risk having her camera stolen and sold off. Do they still make disposables?

The thing that got me was that, right up until the parking lot blow job

This is the one that got me too. The couple having sex seems like a photo you don't really get without substantial willingness of the participants. But the parking lot one with the sort of winking caption, ugh.
posted by atoxyl at 12:36 PM on January 27


[swapped in a working version of the link]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 PM on January 27


If I was a junkie, I don't think I would tolerate an art student photographing me in my daily life and intimate and difficult moments. I wonder why they did?
posted by bystander at 3:26 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Money?
posted by Scram at 7:19 AM on February 3


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